This voluntary approach also enters into the regulatory context of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) committing European Union Member States to meet the target of good status for all waterbodies by 2027. It answers to a pressing need in terms of good water quality in Europe. France, including the Pays de la Loire region, is affected by these phenomena of pollution, river basin development and increasingly frequent extreme events such as droughts and floods. In France, the first “water management plans” specified by the WFD, were approved in 2009. These are the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP). The Pays de la Loire Region Council is involved in the implementation of the Loire-Bretagne RBMP.
Water, a resource at the heart of Pays de la Loire region
Water has shaped the regional area. The area is crossed by the Loire river and numerous other rivers. There are also large wetlands and coastal marshlands. These water bodies are home to an incredibly diverse number of plant and animal species, and support many economic or recreational purposes. The resource, however, is under threat. Only 11% of watercourses in the Pays de la Loire region meet good ecological status. The trend does not seem to be showing any signs of improvement. There are many consequences of this degradation, be they health-related, related to the economy or environmental. Climate change is set to increase strain on the resource. Action urgently needs to be taken.
Multiple causes of degradation of the status of water bodies
Interruptions to ecological continuity
Ecological continuity is characterised by good circulation of aquatic species and sediments. There are over 4,600 obstacles to flow in the Loire river system. 900 obstacles have been studied or are being studied or work to restore continuity is being carried out. Lying at the interface between the maritime and river sections, the Pays de la Loire area constitutes a transitional zone for migrating fish (salmon, eel, shad, lamprey, sea trout).
Human development of river basins
The historical degradation of aquatic environments is related to artificialisation of river basins: land consolidation, hedgerows destruction, degradation of the functions or disappearance of wetlands, urbanisation, etc. These developments accelerate water flow, limit the regulating effect of wetlands and modify the hydrology and substrate of watercourses.
Withdrawals and high frequency of severe low water levels
The geological context in the Pays de la Loire region is characterised by low groundwater reserves and low flow in most watercourses, a situation worsened due to withdrawals (drinking water supply, industries, farming, etc.). Population growth accentuates the pressure on water resource.
A large number of artificial lakes
We count more than 40,000 lakes larger than 1,000 m² in the regional aera. Their presence results in a loss of flow through evaporation, interruptions to ecological continuity, flooding of watercourses and wetlands, a rise in water temperature, eutrophication, change to fish populations etc.
Diffuse pollution, particularly involving pesticides, agricultural nitrates and phosphorus, are a significant cause of deterioration in groundwater and surface water. Waste water discharge from local authorities and industry remains an important issue in certain receiving environments (upstream from catchments, coastal areas etc.).
It is thought that 75% of water bodies in the Pays de la Loire region are at risk of failing to achieve good status with regard to the pollution criterion (and particularly pesticides, phosphorus and nitrates). 66% of water bodies in the Pays de la Loire region are at risk of failing to achieve good status with regard to the morphology criterion. 59% of water bodies in the Pays de la Loire region are at risk of failing to achieve good status with regard to the continuity criterion. 66% of water bodies in the Pays de la Loire region are at risk of failing to achieve good status with regard to the quantitative criterion (gap between volumes withdrawn and volumes that can be tolerated by the environment).
A project born in 2017
Discussions on the LIFE REVERS’EAU project began in 2017. Local stakeholders began working on its elaboration in January 2018. A bottom-up approach was preferred, allocating significant space to local stakeholders to come up with relevant actions and to collectively define the project framework. French State services and the Loire Bretagne Water Agencyworked closely on this project. The Loire Bretagne Water Agency is co-funding the project up to €4,025,551.00. The project was approved by the European Commission in Autumn 2020.